University of Iowa is getting positive feedback as it discusses launching its first gay fraternity, school officials say.
The participants wouldn't have a frat house, but the fraternity could be a niche for gays on campus.
"Current Greeks have talked about it and are supportive. We have been feeling out other students who might be interested, and they have been really excited about the idea," Kelly Jo Karnes, associate director of the university's Center for Student Involvement & Leadership, said in an email to Patch.
"On campus, the feedback has been great," she said, adding that she can't speak to the reaction off campus.
A gay fraternity seems fitting for a school located in arguably the most liberal city in the state.
UI was part of the early wave of schools officially recognizing gay student groups on campus back in 1970, and school president Sally Mason is set to speak at the fifth anniversary celebration of the school's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center later this month.
Still, when it comes to gays in Greek Life, UI fell behind its more conservative sister, Iowa State University. ISU established a gay fraternity in 2006, according to ISU and Delta Lambda Phi.
UI is considering starting a chapter of Delta Lambda Phi, which is the same national social organization to which ISU belongs. Founded in 1986, Delta Lambda Phi "has offered gay, bisexual, and progressive men across the nation the opportunity to grow in the true spirit of brotherhood -- one that embraces diversity and respects the value of all," its website says.
“I’d always been kind of interested in fraternities but was concerned that, as a gay individual, others wouldn’t be accepting,” Chris Celania, an ISU junior and president of the chapter, told the Iowa City Press-Citizen. “Delta Lambda Phi is a safe environment.”
The possible addition of a gay frat fits with efforts by UI officials to diversify Greek Life offerings. In recent years, the school has added an Asian sorority and an Asian fraternity, among others.
Some men on campus approached UI about the idea back in 2008, but they lost contact as the UI office was shuffled about campus due to a flood that closed several buildings, Karnes said.
More recently, the school has been reaching out to students for ideas about what the next cultural group should be, which is how they started considering the gay fraternity, Karnes said.
“We started with a Latino and Latina sorority and fraternity then ventured to Asian sorority (and) fraternity, now we’re going out of the spectrum into sexual orientation,” Thomas Arce, an openly gay student who is among several trying to get the fraternity started, told SourceMedia Group News.
The university has an information meeting Oct. 25 at Iowa Memorial Union to determine whether support exists to move forward, the Press-Citizen reported.